By Jan Worth-Nelson
A longstanding and continuing effort to relocate the crime-ridden Atherton East housing complex received a major boost today with the announcement that a $30 million federal grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has been awarded to the City of Flint and the Flint Housing Commission.
The Choice Neighborhoods Grant, announced in a joint press release by U.S. Congressman Dan Kildee and U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters, will support replacement of the public housing complex with “new modern, affordable housing units and will help residents relocate to neighborhoods in South Flint with better access to basic services and job opportunities,” according to the announcement.
The complex will be demolished, officials said, with no rebuilding because two-thirds of the land is on a floodplain, leading to flooded units during heavy rains — a matter which has bedeviled Atherton East residents in addition to the plague of crime.
The grant will be added to a $1.5 million tax credit received by the city in March from the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA).
When the MSHDA grant was announced in March, Mayor Karen Weaver said the one aspect of the relocation plan, called Clark Commons, was a four-phase project aiming also to address development needs in the North End of Flint.
The first phase was expected to bring 62 units of mixed-income housing to on North Saginaw between Wood and Williams Streets, 39 of which would be for current Atherton East residents, according to Suzanne Wilcox, City of Flint director of planning and development. In March city officials predicted building would start in six to twelve months. A warehouse nearby is expected to be torn down.
Atherton East, according to M-Live identified by the real estate site Neighborhood Scout as one of the 25 most dangerous neighborhoods in the country, is located at 3123 Chambers St. It is set back on a partially paved road east of Dort Highway between Atherton and Lippincott streets.
Eventually, all 192 units of Atherton East are scheduled to be replaced, Wilcox said.
“My hometown of Flint is full of promise and this federal grant is an important part of our community’s recovery,” Kildee said in a prepared statement. “Flint families have been through a lot, but our community is tough and Flint is coming back even stronger than before.”
HUD’s Choice Neighborhood program aims to help struggling neighborhood through focusing on not only housing but on other areas as well, Wilcox said in a March article in EVM. Atherton East, long troubled by crime, fits the criteria, she said.
Built into the grant are supports for several Flint community organizations partnering with the Flint Housing Commission, Kildee’s statement said. Mott Community College Workforce Development is expected to provide career case management services to help residents find jobs; Hurley Medical Center will help match residents with health care services, nutrition counseling and mental health services; and the Flint and Genesee Literacy Network will help with education and literacy programming.
“Thanks to the hard work and focused determination of so many community leaders, Flint has made incredible progress,” Sen. Stabenow said. “New affordable housing builds on this progress, strengthening neighborhoods and creating job opportunities for Flint residents.”
In March, as the city awaited word about the Choice Grant application, Flint Councilwoman Jerri Winfrey Carter, representing the Fifth Ward where the North Saginaw Street units are to be built, said “I think we really need to build community and this is the way to do it.”
This article was updated at 3 p.m. July 7 to clarify that Atherton East is not in the Fifth Ward, but in the Ninth, represented by Councilwoman Eva Worthing. Jerri Winfrey-Carter represents the Fifth Ward.
It was updated again at 5:40 p.m. to include additional information about the project from Councilwoman Winfrey-Carter.
EVM Editor Jan Worth-Nelson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.